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Wednesday, November 24, 2010



This week is when people in America are sitting down together and munching down loads of food.  Halloween is my favorite holiday but Thanksgiving would have to be a close second.  I like the concept of sitting down and sharing stories, food and fun with my family.  And I like the idea of having a day just to be grateful. What a wonderful gift to give to each other: gratitude.

Christmas always disappoints but Thanksgiving is always pretty good. I haven’t been home with my family for Thanksgiving since…well it would have to be around 2000 and that makes me sad because the date always represented good times.

The expat Thanksgiving last night was pretty cool.  The spread is impressive: turkey was replaced by two delicious chickens, the pumpkin pie was homemade (as was everything else) and for dessert was the most gorgeous little pecan pies.

As we sat down, everyone went around the table saying one thing they were thankful for.  After each person spoke, everyone at the table "cheered" and gently clinked our glasses.  I thanked everyone for their tolerance; I was unable to purchase any wine and my beans weren't boiled...I am a horrible guest.

I sat next to a woman who is a harpy of disasters like me (e.g. leaves a place and then disaster hits).  On the other side of me was a Pisces girl, born on 7 March; we are planning a joint birthday party.  We seem to have had parallell lives; she, Australian, lived in the states for nine years, while I lived in N.Z. for nine years.  Across from me is the most gorgeous Italian woman; vibrant and expressive.  And the list goes on...amazing people, amazing food in an amazing place.

We walk out on the balcony, trying to get out of the hot apartment.  The moon rises, orange and almost full.  The night is slightly coolish; the rainy season has begun in earnest.  The big fishing boats are lit up like Christmas trees across the bay; it is a beautiful night for a Thanksgiving feast.

I didn't want to bore the people last night with my long, long list of gratitude but here it is:

Being American (Yep, I said it…deal with it)

Being here in the Solomons has made me view my life in a totally different light. As a woman, I fully appreciate all the advantages given to me growing up in the U.S.  Here, women are treated as second class citizens; not one woman sits in Parliament.

After giving birth, in some places, women are exiled from their villages for up to six months, with the baby and no support.  Infant mortality is high; 40 babies out of 1,000 die before six months.  Many women die in childbirth.  Although women own land, they rarely are allowed to participate in decision making that involves their own land or wealth.  Women work an average of 15 hours a day, while men work an average of 10 hours a day. 

Clearly it is a man’s world here.

Because women are treated less than men, their literacy level is significantly lower.  Boys are given priority over girls to go to school and girls leave at a younger age.  The list goes on and on...I'm not saying that Solomon Islands should change and get all feminist, but I think some thinking and basic changing regarding equality is important. And women being empowered and educated is a central part of development.

There are many other things I like about being American.  As a culture (especially from the West Coast), we are eternally optimistic people.  We are pretty trusting and always think the best of everyone in our lives.  We tend to be less critical and more accepting of people.  We aren't afraid to discuss politics or religion, sharing our views openly.  We are unabashed workaholics BUT I think thats fine, if you are doing something that fulfills you.  I appreciate the American loud and happy nature; even through dark times, most people find reasons to smile and have a laugh.

I love the vastness of land, the diversity of environments and people.  Its a land of immigrants (which it sometimes forgets).

In America, it DOES feel like anything is possible.

Being French too
Yep, I love the frenchies.  The French, for all their strikes and interesting policies, are pretty cool people.  Their cheese alone makes me proud to be a half frenchie.

Living in New Zealand

This week, the miners on the West Coast lost their lives to a tragic accident.  Kiwis across the globe grieved, mourned and supported each other.  The loss of 29 men on a small West Coast community is beyond tragic; it is devastating.  I had the privelage of working for the New Zealand Blood Service back in the early 2000s, and I know every community on the West Coast to Fox Glacier…

I was proud to work with the people of the West Coast…Coasters have a different sensibility than the people in the east…I remember one time, I got a rental van stuck in the mud on the way to Greymouth.  I remember the two men clearly, wearing stubby shorts and long, waterproof jackets with gum boots.  The men pushed us out of the mud and when we offered them a bottle of wine instead of beer, they politely turned us down, clearly wanting a beer instead.

I am eternally thankful for having the opportunity to live in one of the best countries on earth. Kiwis are an pretty cool bunch of people and I feel, in my heart, deeply connected to New Zealand.

Someday I hope to live there again, a nice little house on a lifestyle block with llamas, a big garden and ducks and a new cat with the name Mrs. Dot Dot.  I imagine sitting on the porch, with a few more grey hairs and a big smile, sipping happily on a red wine and eating some stinky cheese, reflecting back on my life, watching my kids play, the Southern Alps glimmering in the background.

It's a whole thing, a whole life that I look forward to someday, just not quite yet.

Being alone
I have a confession to make: I like living alone.  I’m not the easiest person to live with, certainly, so I sort of figure I’m better living on my own.  I’m an independent soul; I like taking care of myself and not being reliant on anybody. 

I think living alone teaches you a lot, it has certainly taught me a great deal.  You have to learn how to like and love yourself, understand your flaws and work on them.  I’ve begun to really cherish my own company, without the need of TV. or friends to distract me from thinking about things.  All the energy I have is dedicated towards making me a better person.  And what can be wrong with that?

Great jobs

Okay, I’ve had great jobs.  I really have.  No, really.  Stop laughing.  I have been in places that are unique and I’ve met the most amazing people.  Like women who have survived years of domestic violence, only to leave the relationship and become a community advocate against it.  Or the women in Namibia who house 60 people because they can.  Or the guys who have gone to every large scale disaster in Asia in the last 20 years.  I mean the list goes on…

My jobs have done that for me, the new one and the old.  I am forever grateful to those jobs and those people who mentored me, helped me and made me a better person. 

My Family

My family is just awesome. They just are.  Not to say your family isn’t too; these things aren’t mutually exclusive.  My parents are patient with their wayward travelling daughter and they help me out all the time.  My mom helps me do things and my dad helps me feel through things.  They are great. So are my brothers, and my sister in law.

I also got an awesome extended family too.  

My friends

Seriously. I have great friends.  I have had friends who have helped me cry, dance the night away, drink me under the table, pack up my things, drag me up Ben Nevis (I’m looking at you, Eddy) and help me live my life.  I am indebted to all my friends.    

My pain

Life is not without its heartbreaks and sadness.  Of course there are days when life sucks and when you wish you could do things differently. Regret is a part of learning. I’m not going to tie a bow on this one and make it pretty but my pain and heartbreak has helped me along the path of my life.  Sometimes I did the hurting and sometimes it was the other way around but either way, this year has been a great teacher.  It taught me how to let go with love, how to put the needs of others first. It is better that you let someone go, with grace and kindness, than to keep them in misery and anguish, thereby stifling their growth as a person.

That is real love.


This year, I am grateful that I connected with my old hobbies, especially my love of music, both performing and listening.  I had really limited myself musically for a long time, and I don’t know why exactly.  But I am grateful for re-connecting with my love of music. It saved me.


The gift of strangers; what would I do without the people who helped me get my leg untrapped in Sydney?  The countless people I asked for directions because I was lost and they gave me the right way to go? Or the bartender who introduced me to Isley whiskey free of charge (because he was quitting)? 
I have been really protected by having come across good people who have looked after me and I never see them again.  I am grateful for them.


Seriously. I have a lot of fears. I’m terrified of sharks (which is why I’m going to go diving and get PADI certified). Heights (which is why I joined an abseiling team). Miley Cyrus (there is no cure for a Miley Cyrus phobia, sadly).  Coming to a new country where I know practically no one.  These are all fears of mine. Some of which I can deal with, some I can’t.  But my fears often compel me to do something different.  I’ve had a great year of facing fears about being alone, heights, traveling to exotic places. 

Fear hasn’t stopped me but just encouraged me along the path.


I am grateful this year of having loved and having been loved.  I believe that love is the most powerful energy on this planet and it can transform our whole lives, if we let it.  But the most important love, I learned this year, was for myself (I know, I sound like a Whitney Huston song…deal with it). 

Seriously, after years of searching for love in other people, I realized that I was wasting so much time and energy when I just needed to give love to myself. This may seem basic to most people but it took me quite awhile to get a handle on it.  So I am grateful that I learned that.

All this gratitude leads me to one fairly fundamental issue: I am grateful for my life.  I couldn’t always say that this year with confidence but I can now.  And I hope that when you sit around with your family (whoever you are, gentle reader) that you can say the same.  Because life is too short to not be grateful for what you have.  

And you have much more than you can imagine.  The list above is so small compared to the detailed account of my life. 

That is my wish for you this year and the next.  Be grateful for what you have and enjoy the ride.  Be gentle to others and respect their journey too.  Understand that in life, we actually can only control ourselves and how we view the world, everything else is in someone else’s hands. 

I wish you, my friends, family and strangers (aka people I don’t know yet) the very best this Thanksgiving.